When you think about conflict, your mind may instantly relate it to a negative experience or emotion. However, conflict does not always have to be dealt with or viewed in a negative manner.
Any situation where conflict arises provides us with two options: to either deal with it in a healthy or unhealthy way. For example, bottling up your emotions results in unhealthy conflict and leads to holding grudges, resentment or passive aggressive behavior. However, when we're able to express ourselves mindfully, this results in healthy conflict and promotes harmony, solutions and new ideas or perspectives.
What is unhealthy conflict?
Lack of respect for other party's goals
Explosive, angry, defensive, and/or reactionary
Focuses more on winning the conflict, not the potential of resolution
Refusal to seek compromise, bullying
Fear of bad results
What is healthy conflict?
Parties respect each other's viewpoints
Ready to move past the issue towards resolution
Desire to seek compromise
Belief that confronting the conflict will benefit both parties
Here are five strategies to help you practice your approach to healthy conflicts:
Use "And," not "But."
One effective way to engage in healthy conflict is to make your response an addition instead of a detraction. For example, "I understand your point of view, and I believe my point is valid as well. Let's discuss both views further." By using the word "and," you encourage problem solving and support the idea offered. By using the word "but," you are insinuating there may be flaws to the other party's idea.
Ask for an explanation, don't assume.
One common instigator of unhealthy conflict is assuming the motivation behind another party's idea. Instead, be curious and ask for more information before assuming their idea is wrong or invalid. Ask what the goal and why they're approaching it that way. The bonus of this approach is that if the stated idea wasn't well thought out, you can work together to readjust as needed.
Show some vulnerability.
Similar to the previous approach, when something doesn't sound quite right to you, admit that you don't understand. This encourages an explanation without coming across as an attack.
Ask for a potential solution.
When you present an idea and someone pushes back, ask for a solution. For instance, you might say, "I understand this is a tight deadline, how can we organize the materials and delegate work as best we can to succeed together?" This directs the person's challenge to a more constructive, collaborative place.
Reach an agreement to collaborate.
If you're in a detailed conflict with someone, make it a priority to work with them one-on-one. Agree to an actual process for how to find facts and answers to develop a healthy solution or compromise. Decide together how you want to find information, analyze it, and reach a decision.
Overcoming the discomfort of conflict is a matter of habit and skill building. Each time you are presented with a conflict, remember you can choose how to handle it. We don't grow in our comfort zones.
"10% of conflict is due to difference in opinion and 90% is due to delivery and tone of voice." - Anonymous